One of The Daily Beast's best read assets, Andrew Sullivan, announced he will leave the embattled news organization with his blog The Daily Dish and publish it independently using a metered pay model.
The conservative blogger has written The Daily Dish for the past 12 years and, starting in February, will charge those who want to go on reading it $19.99 per year for full access to his advertisement-free website — not far from the $25 that The Daily Beast will be charging readers now that print partner Newsweek is dead.
Sullivan, who will work with seven other bloggers from The Daily Beast, said donations were also a source of revenue until he starts profiting from the paywall. Some of his donations are as large as $10,000. He told Buzzfeed he has already made back what he originally invested in the venture.
"We're well into six figures in revenue," the England native said Wednesday. "But there's no meter yet, so we won't find out how it's really all going until mid-February."
There is one way around the paywall, Sullivan admits: the RSS feed, which isn’t metered.
Sullivan told Buzzfeed he estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of the posts would be readable just by clicking on the home page. Links to the site won't cause incoming readers to hit a paywall. It's only clicking through to the longer posts that will require payment.
Still, the assumption is the most loyal readers will subscribe. In an age where millions shell out for Kickstarter projects they believe in, there's a trend in devoted consumers paying up.
As big news organizations like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times experiment with paywalls and are starting to find success, Sullivan's idea isn't so far out there. Ten years ago it probably would have been, but as the landscape of journalism changes, the idea is to give readers premium content they know and love and they will subscribe.
Sullivan said he's not sure whether he will have to raise the subscription rate to make the website profitable in the long run.
Reuters' Felix Salmon estimated Sullivan will need to earn $750,000 a year – 50,000 subscribers — to keep the operation up and running. He said the initial investment was costly.
Sullivan dispelled the rumor that he was pushed out of The Daily Beast. Rather, he said, Editor Tina Brown and media executive Barry Diller encouraged him to stay.
Unlike at The Daily Beast, his new setting will give him more freedom to write about whatever he wants because he won't have advertisers to please. He believes the fact that there is no corporate agenda is a selling point.
"No corporate ownership, no advertising demands, no pressure for page views . . . just a concept designed to make your reading experience as good as possible, and to lead us not into temptation," he wrote in a letter on The Daily Beast.
Overall, this is a new chapter for the pioneering blogger.
"We have no idea where it'll end," he said. "But at some point you figure I should have been dead 10 years ago, so I figure, what the hell."
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